Social media,a great tool or the devil in disguise?

I would like to start this post by stating that I am aware that there is a very high percentage of people who do not have access to a computer, so I do appreciate that in it’s own way this form of communication is slightly exclusive. But hopefully, as things evolve, more and more people will gain access to the hardware and training that they require, to join in with the technological revolution, that is sweeping our planet.

I received a news article from one of my colleagues in America, and it showed that from a survey that was done across 1000 patients, more than 30% were using social media as a platform for health care discussions. This is now prompting them to rethink their media strategy. Coming away from the commonly held perception, that the audience is just a set of numbers to target  with marketing ads.

They are beginning to see that if done properly, they can engage with patients, interact with them, and even provide certain services, which may, in the longer term be able to provide a more convenient and cheaper alternative to some of the systems being currently used. 75% of the people suggested, appointments and specialist referrals might be a good place to start.

Obviously we are not talking about ‘ facebooking’ your consultant! But starting to look at new ways of using the convenience and immediacy of social networking. The greatest risk of social media, is ignoring social media!

One of the dangers of social media, is that there is a vast amount of information out there, on all of us, and it is being shared by companies as we speak. All sorts of information is being gathered, to build profiles on all of us, to see where we fit in the consumer chain. Therefore would we feel comfortable that our health details are being shared across the globe?

The positive side to social media, is that we can communicate when and where we like. We can find most information at the touch of a button.As this information is readily available, it means that information about us is too! That is how the system works.Most people like the fact that they have access to information but don’t like the idea that their details are being shared.Very difficult to have one without the other.

Certainly, security and protocols need to be tightened, but I imagine that this will naturally happen as this medium grows in popularity.I feel that we need to get a bit more comfortable with the availability of information. It seems like with most new processes, the younger generation are already in the swing of it, but some of us are not using credit cards on the internet, not using internet banking, for fear of hackers! Some of my friends don’t even use wifi for fear of having a cyber attack. I have pointed out that if people can hack into the CIA and MI5 then we have no chance!

I have just read an article from a famous journalist, reporting on a breakdown of a marriage, which was conducted over Twitter! I agree, what a lot of rubbish. I can’t begin to ask why they did that, but that was their choice. There is the twist with social media, CHOICE!

If you don’t like any particular medium, be it Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, or blog etc, you are not forced to use it. All these mediums can, if used appropriately, make your life easier, and entertain you. People choose to use them in different ways, not always how I would, but I’m sure they might feel that about me. You have a choice with TV. If you think that a programme is not entertaining you, then switch it off.

We all use these things differently, or some, not at all, but that is our choice. For me personally, social media has entirely changed my way of working, and enables me to reach a far wider audience.In a way, people who follow my work, either through Facebook, Twitter or my blog, have opened their channels of communication to me and invited me into their lives. As in life, I would never abuse that hospitality, either in person or online. I still follow the same etiquette, as if I was talking to someone face to face.

It does seem that sometimes people create some sort of false persona for themselves, and become incredibly brave with words, from behind the safety of their computer. But in truth I imagine these to be the minority. There are 10 million Twitter users in UK and 140 million across the world. From numbers like that you will always find people doing things they shouldn’t. However we do need to start putting in safeguards for the future, as even the law seems out of touch, at the rate that social media is growing in popularity.

I personally embrace new technology, and am loving what it can help me with. Do you feel the same?

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